Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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Izzy arrives at Orchard Farm

Ever since we moved here we have wanted a dog, the farm just calls out for one. We have lots of guests that bring their dogs and each time we said we need to get on of our own. Well here she is Sunshine Honeybeam otherwise known as Izzy. She is a wired haired Vizsla and like a lot of people we had not heard of the bread until we were watching Country file one week and Adam Henson was on with his two lovely dogs. The internet being a good source of information soon identified the breed. Finding a puppy of course didn’t prove that easy. Izzy is one of a litter of 5 and is just 8 weeks old. She is proving to be quite a character and loves people. She was born into a household with 3 other dogs so is already been socialised. Once she can go out it is off to puppy training classes. Can’t have well behaved dogs of the guests showing her up. The other good thing is that for those guests that do not have a dog there is one available to be borrowed. One guest did put in the comments book that the only thing missing here was a dog to loan if you didn’t have one of your own. Hope that lots of guests come back to meet her.

Is Tom’s Barn Dog-Friendly, or Dog-Owner Friendly?

IMG_4770This post will be a masterpiece of procrastination. Looming over me is this week’s Blogging for Photographers homework blog post but, as I discover, doing one to order is strangely inhibiting. Having tidied the desk, answered emails, made a few urgent (?) phone calls I now feel compelled to talk about dogs with some genuinely very important guidelines for dog owners in the Peak Park…

Firstly, how dog-friendly are we? I was challenged about this the other day by the very charming owner of a young greyhound who needed an enclosed paddock to race around in for several hours every day. There is no question that we could help. We have a largish garden, Tom’s Barn has its own charming self-contained little cottage garden and out of the back gate lies a whole uncultivated valley of trees and fields. But, there is nothing to contain a wildly energetic and tireless dog. There was no beating about the bush, and of course I didn’t try. The story ends happily, because I was able to recommend our friends Deborah and Martin Hofman at Wheeldon Trees Farm who do take dogs and who do have a fully enclosed paddock for dogs to race around in.

And talking about racing around, the Peak Park National Authority have just issued a plea to all dog owners living in or visiting the Peak District, to take particular care to keep their dogs under control to protect young animals and ground nesting birds during the breeding season. Alt the more reason for dogs that need to be let of the leash for long periods of time should stay somewhere where they are able to run free in an enclosed paddock. We love our dog owners and their dogs that com to Tom’s Barn and would never want to put any of you off and you all seem to manage to have a lovely time with your dogs, enjoying vigorous country works without any problems. But in reality, we are more heavily weighted in the dog-owner friendly than the pure dog-friendly category.

Comments from a Canine Guest Blogger

Rocky Rimmer 025

Our Canine Guest Blogger

We get many beautiful dogs visiting Tom’s Barn with their owners: many rescue dogs, many mongrels and many very aristocratic pedigrees. We don’t as far as we know have many literate ones, so were very pleased to see that Rocky, an English Springer Spaniel who stayed recently, wrote in our Tom’s Barn Visitors’ book last week. You hear of Guide Dogs, Deaf Dogs but Rocky may be the only Scribe Dog we will come across.

He writes: Take me home – I need a rest! I’m on the go all day. I’ve been to Ashbourne, Matlock and Bakewell; my favourite was the water at Carsington. But best of all was lying in front of the log fire, me and my owners all asleep. They struggle to keep up with me – they’re middle-aged, not like me!! But they haven’t done too badly…A pint at the local, then food at the George and the Devonshire Arms at Beeley. It sounded like they enjoyed it.

The weather has been great for us four-legged friends Thank you for my lovely weekend – I can hardy keep my eyes open!

We Say a Fond Farewell to Boots

Boots lowish resIMG_9845

Boots, who died today 18 Jan 2013

I know in the scheme of things the death of a cat is not very important, but as any pet lover will know, it is very big for the pet’s owners. Today we took Boots, our much-loved-by-many cat, to the vet, and he very kindly and very gently, put her to sleep. She sat there is in her basket, trusting to the end, purring as we stroked her. The vet first gave her a sedative and she soon lay down, sleepily; then he gave her the crucial injection and within a minute or two she was still.

One feels like a murderer, because in herself she was still quite perky (thanks to good attention from the vet). However, she was yowling a lot and seemed to be becoming rather disorientated. Apart from being distressing to us and no doubt to her – but who knows what goes on in a cat’s mind – the vet warned us that as she became more confused she would run the risk of coming to an unpleasant end, either going off and getting lost or allowing herself to be mauled by a dog, or run over by a car.

So we made the difficult decision and at least she did have a very ‘happy’ end. This she completely deserved, as she had given so much happiness to us and to the many she came into contact with over a long number of years in cat terms, and at the very least 16 in ours. She moved up to Derbyshire from Devon with my father in October 1999 when she was already several years old. Ever since Tom’s Barn began in 2000 she has been on the scene, and the arrival of Douglas’s Barn was bliss to her – firstly because this was her true ‘home’ where she had lived with my father until his death in 2004 and secondly because so many lovely Douglas’s Barn guests spoilt her wonderfully. Life with us next door was never so rewarding!

As one of our ‘children’ sums it up. ‘Poor darling Boots, we’ll all miss her such a lot. She brought a lot of joy for a little thing in her time didn’t she?’

Tom’s Barn ‘Dog Policy’

We are often asked for our `Dog Policy’, and have to admit rather sheepishly that we are a bit anti policies (there’re too many around already) and we are also a bit lazy and do not yet have one as such. But we are also often asked our advice by other holiday cottage owners who are wondering about whether they should accept dogs so this little piece will try to do both.

We have always really loved having dogs and their owners. There is something rather special about most dog owners – we no longer are (dog owners I mean). Mostly they come to enjoy the countryside and walking and the countryside round here is second to none, and the walking quite superb so they are all happy. Also, we have found that top quality cottages that also accept dogs are rarer than is convenient, so we find Tom’s Barn is always in great demand well in advance, when organised dog owners plan their trips. Douglas’s Barn is in as great demand but the bookings tend on the whole to be less dramatically in advance.

When asked whether we’d recommend accepting dogs our answer is always an emphatic ‘Yes!’ in theory but of course it does need to be thought through.

We do stipulate well-behaved. We do stipulate that dogs aren’t allowed upstairs. If asked whether dogs can be left in the cottage unattended we say it’s OK by us if they can fully trust their dog a) not to be unhappy and yelp and whine and b) not do start chewing the furniture in frustrated loneliness!

Other than that we tend to leave it to the owners’ own good sense, as ultimately it is the they that are responsible for any harm that their dog might do to others or to the fixtures and fittings. If the dog owners have any concerns about their dog or about the suitability of our accommodation we stress that it is vital please that they discuss this with us. Anything that might impinge on the peace of mind of the guests in Douglas’s Barn would be a clear no. Similarly, any dog prone to constant barking or chewing furniture would not be welcome, but this would be obvious to most owners.

On the other hand, we will warn the owners that our garden is not secure and that there is nowhere where a dog could be left safely on his own outside. People still come after we have told them all our ‘cons’ when they specifically ask but it does’t seem to put them off; they just know where they are.

We charge £25 per dog, with a normal minimum of two but we have (after prior discussion) agreed to three if they are all tiny and their good behaviour is vouchsafed!

From the cottage owner’s point of view, that £25 is well-earned. Taking dogs does make more work, much more work and more wear and tear. Dogs do usually leave a hairy mess behind them that can take at least three complete hooverings to remove; they can come in somewhat damp (even after a good towelling outside) and damp dogs can leave a doggy smell that has to be completely eradicated. The old bedspreads and sheets we leave so that guests can cover the furniture if necessary all have to be washed.

One has to be neurotic that no incoming guest should smell dog, or see a single dog hair. Non dog-owning people tend to be on the look out for any evidence of a dog’s presence; Janet who does Tom’s Barn now always asks one of us to do the ‘sniff test’ check generally. A fresh set of eyes (and a fresh nose in the case of dogs) is invaluable.

We are lucky to have a council operated dog poo bin 50 yards away but we warn that there would need to be an easy way for owners to cope otherwise you might nasty surprises might be left on lawns or lurking in your rubbish bins!!!

Ideally owners that take dogs provide washing down facilities but ours unfortunately are fairly rudimentary. Careful owners won’t let their dogs in until they have ensured they are clean.

We don’t provide bedding. After a suggestion from a guest, we do now provide a spare bowl, lead etc, just in case anyone has forgotten theirs, which can happen.

Putting it all down like this makes it look scary, but it hasn’t been at all for us and we have had hardly any problems. I suppose one must acknowledge that you may also find you risk putting off a minority who may have chosen you just because you do not take dogs but you’ll never know about that, unless they tell you. We had one couple recently who booked the dog cottage, Tom’s Barn, rather than our dogless Douglas, simply to avoid the risk of the other guests having a dog…!

For any holiday cottage owner who has lots of other cottages and guests fairly nearby it is a little more complicated. Is there one of them where dogs and their garden would be hidden from general view? And also possibly where owners can park their car nearby as we have noticed that some dogs like to sleep in the back of the car sometimes.

I hope this gives you the basis of a dog policy plus some tips for other holiday cottage owners. I am a great believer in anticipating problems so that one can prevent them ever happening, so it may all sound rather problematic. We have never regretted for a moment taking dogs and find we have so many really lovely people coming back and back, who would not dream of holidaying without their dog, especially if they are coming for a country, walking type holiday.

House Cat Breaks House Rules

We get the most lovely comments from our guests in the Visitors’ Books which occasionally we like to share with you; sometimes there are some very touching personal comments, which we tend not to share just because they are personal. Idly going through Douglas’s Barn’s Guest book the other day I came across a charming paragraph addressed not just to us, but also to Boots, so i have no compunction in sharing that!

The secret was out… Boots knows in theory that she is not allowed in Douglas’s Barn although that is where she used to live when she came up from Devon with my father 12 years ago so she takes little heed of now being banned if cat-loving souls are happy to invite her inside. She is very old by cat standards and has brought a lot of happiness, first of all to my father Douglas, and then after he died, to us. We are sure she thinks that is her role in life (unless you’re a dog or a bird). She is very clean and she does not have fleas, and loves nothing better than to be cosseted and loved.

Hence the very personal message to Boots from Tony who like many others had enjoyed her company when staying here a couple of weeks ago:

“Dear Marion and John +*Boots,
Thank you so much for sharing this most wonderful part of the world and Douglas’s Barn with us…*Boots, we enjoyed your ‘Brrrs’ and purrs when you dropped by in the evenings to curl up on the sofa with us to watch football and DVDs, and to have your saucer of milk – Tony.”

We love meeting all our guests but have yet to adopt Boots’s shamelessly loving approach.

Snowy Update from Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

Tweed, dancing for joy in the snow!

Just a quick post after a day of snow. Last winter the snow came with a vengeance at the end of November; this year we have had to wait until early February so it seems more exciting – there isn’t that slight niggling worry that it might be going to last for four months or so, and it has come at the weekend so the children and actually many adults could toboggan and not too many souls were worrying about getting to work.

Sadly our Douglas’s Barn’s  guests had decided, very wisely as it turns out, to leave yesterday after they had seen the snow forecasts as they had commitments on Monday that they could not risk missing.

People are getting in and out of the village but without a heavy duty 4×4 it would be wiser to stay safely put!

How Friendly is Dog-Friendly Tom’s Barn?

Bronte BWe love dogs, and their owners, and we welcome dogs to Tom’s Barn, warmly and almost unconditionally. However, we do always stipulate ‘well-behaved’ and we do politely suggest that they don’t go upstairs or onto the furniture (unless it is adequately protected by dust sheets and old curtains which we do provide).

So, what is this all leading up to? And, no, we haven’t had a bad experience, not for a long time… What is worrying us is that on Wednesday we are having a carpet laid! Carpet, up the stairs and in the Tom’s Barn bedroom and no… we didn’t really want to do this having always tried as hard as we can to keep our two barns as charmingly ‘barnlike’ as we can rather than what in the circumstances would feel to us to be overdressed and inappropriate.

So what has brought on the astonishing change of mind you may wonder? Well, it’s status seeking, no less, or perhaps, status retaining. As you know, both our barns are annually inspected and given 5 Stars with a coveted Gold Award. In Tom’s Barn this is quite an achievement, accepting dogs as we do (although by no means all our loyal and lovely Tom’s Barn guests have dogs) and we are determined not to risk losing it, nor do we ever want to threaten the pleasure of any guest coming without a dog. At our last QiT (Quality in Tourism) inspection we were warned in no uncertain terms that to retain our Five Star status we had to do something about the wooden surface of both the stairs (bad, thanks to occasional sharp and slithering dogs’ claws) and the bedroom floor (mostly just general wear and tear and countless moppings but also what can only be the odd doggie claw mark).

We consulted Jason our decorator, David our joiner and various other experts who know about these things, hoping against hope that someone would have an attractive and workable solution. Very very reluctantly we have come to see that short of serious structural and extremely expensive reflooring which anyway would be impossible to achieve with little likelihood of a long enough gap in our wall-to-wall bookings which we can’t disrupt the only reasonable solution is what we hope will be attractive and hard-wearing carpet.

So three burly carpet layers from Nutts Carpets of Clay Cross are coming on Wednesday to lay the carpet. I say burly, but of course they may all be wiry and slim but what we do know is that they will be strong and they will be skilled because they will have to lay the carpet with the enormously heavy bed in situ; they also have the central pillar to work around. It won’t be a simple job. Guests are coming on Friday and everything has got to be spick and span and spotless so the pressure is on for the poor carpet layers and for us.

And once the carpet is down for all sorts of obvious reasons we will not want dogs up the stairs or in the bedroom, please. I know most people wouldn’t dream of letting their dog upstairs, here or at home but we do understand that for some dogs it is difficult: there is no door you can firmly shut and if they can hear and see you upstairs they may find it hard to understand that they aren’t welcome. Fortunately we now have a permanent stair gate and we do ask your cooperation not just for our peace of mind but for all our guests as well, those with dogs and those without.

John this evening took a few before shots of the carpetless wooden surfaces; all being well tomorrow we shall have some after pictures which we will all be happy with!

Some Dog-Friendly News from Tom’s Barn

Here is a photo taken this afternoon of a very handsome Smudge who did not want to be hosed down after a boggy walk in the High Peak today. And just for good measure one of Boots our much-loved 14-year old cat inherited from my father Douglas, taken yesterday.

We warmly  welcome dogs (and the occasional cat) and their owners to Tom’s Barn and it is evident from what our guests tell us  and all the forward bookings (and the  disappointed scores we have to turn away all the time) that this feeling is mutual..What does this mean to the dogless?

Tom’s Barn welcomes dogs but Douglas is Dogless

Please  be reassured,  you don’t have to have a dog to stay in Tom’s Barn! All our guests  are just as warmly welcome, with or without a dog. We have never done a count up to see what the percentage of dog-owner visitors is but I would guess at more than half, possibly more like three quarters. The dogless have the advantage that they can make the choice between Tom’s Barn or Douglas’s Barn.

Douglas’s Barn, which also has its own loyal band of followers, is always dog-free. Many choose it for its peaceful colour scheme and quirky design, the spacious bedroom and the power shower (not to forget the slightly bigger-longer bed…). However it is particularly attractive to those who fear (we trust totally unnecessarily) that where there have been dogs there will be evidence of doggy smell or hair.

A lot of dog friendly accommodation really isn’t of a good standard, and having spent time at Tom’s Barn it really is a hard act to follow!” wrote a happy dog-owner who stayed here in july for her second visit.

Another guest comments on Tripadvisor that dog-owners can often find themselves being given a  raw deal,  “If you’re worried about staying at Tom’s Barn don’t (worry), this as a dog owner is the best place I have ever stayed in, clean and really comfortable.”

Finally, here is a link to a local website, Dog Friendly Peak District, (you may find you have to register first) which has some useful information including a list of dog-friendly pubs, which however doesn’t include our two favourites, the George at Alstonefield and the Gate at Brassington. By the way, with all of them we do recommend always that you ring beforehand to check; pub owners can change their policy after one too many tricky canine incidents (not all dogs or owners are so well-mannered as ours invariably are!).

Some Guests’ Comments from Dog-Friendly Tom’s Barn

Orchard Farm suntrap

Basking in the sunshine outside Tom's & Douglas's Barns

You don’t have to have a dog to enjoy a wonderful holiday in Tom’s Barn. Many but by no means all of our Tom’s Barn guests do come with a dog, or two, but we do our very best to ensure, especially for non- dog owners that you wouldn’t ever guess that we did accept dogs. That is why we charge a bit extra for dogs because it takes real effort, time and dedication (ask Janet!) to erase all doggy traces however well behaved and well-groomed the dog, however careful the owners…

“The best equipped, stocked and presented cottage we have ever stayed in, thank you! So many great walks, both from Parwich and also within easy reach – the walks folder was so helpful. Great food and atmosphere at the George, Alstonefield; Chatsworth lives up to its reputation. So much more to see and do – we hope to return some time.” Aug 2011

“Thank you, both, we had a lovely holiday and what lovely weather we had: sunshine every day! Tom’s Barn is so relaxing, everything is perfect. I loved the flowers and Simon the jam and coconut tart and the marmalade. Great location for visiting all the lovely villages… Ashbourne Park great for the dog – it was Samson’s favourite place.” Aug 2011

“2nd visit and just as lovely as the first! Nice to relax in a wonderful barn after long walks with Benny. So many people return year after year which says volumes for how lovely it really is. We too will come back for another great holiday.” Aug 2011

“ The best equipped, stocked and presented cottage we have ever stayed in, thank you! So many great walks, both from Parwich and also within easy reach – the walks folder was so helpful. Great food and atmosphere at the George, Alstonefield; Chatsworth lives up to its reputation. So much more to see and do – we hope to return some time.” Aug 2011

“Thank you, both, we had a lovely holiday and what lovely weather we had: sunshine every day! Tom’s Barn is so relaxing, everything is perfect. I loved the flowers and Simon the jam and coconut tart and the marmalade. Great location for visiting all the lovely villages… Ashbourne Park great for the dog – it was Samson’s favourite place.” Aug 2011

‘We loved every minute – a week with no rain, too. Not our first visit, nor will it be our last.’ July 2011

Shimmy visited recently

Many thanks, Marion and John, for a lovely stay. The cake was a lovely treat on arrival, and you have thought of everything to make our stay as comfortable as possible! We can recommend a lovely dog-friendly pub – the Packhorse in Crowdecote – great food and ale and a very warm welcome. Thank you again!’ July 2011

“Another lovely stay at Tom’s Barn. We visited in December when everything was covered in snow – lovely to see here in summertime. Chatsworth is a great place to visit – dog friendly, excellent walks. Relaxing and very comfortable and peaceful as ever. Thank you.’ July 2011

‘As usual, we didn’t want to leave.’ June 2011

Rachel and Greg's Poppy

Finally, as far as the dog-friendly business goes, we are so lucky in the village because there is a lovely young woman called Delia Pegg who for a fee which will depend on the dog/s and what you want doing. She will dog sit/walk/groom which can be very convenient if you want a dog-free spell for any reason. Phone her on 01335 390 758 or 07773 487 882 – she is very busy so you’d need to give her lots of warning.


  • What a great place to spend Christmas!

    There is still time to book a last minute Christmas get away in Douglas’s Barn. The weather may be cold but the barn is very warm and cosy. Why not treat yourselves to a get away from it all break. You can order all your supplies from one of the supermarkets, get it delivered and […]

  • Time for a short pre Christmas break

    Time to get a bit of relaxation before the Christmas mayhem. There are still short breaks available in Douglas’s Barn. Plenty going on in the Peak District. Lots of Christmas markets selling lovely gifts that you don’t see elsewhere. Chatsworth House is also a must at this time of year. There are plenty of stories […]

  • A busy Sunday in the Peak District

    Lots of events to go to in and around Parwich today but managed to get to the Horticultural Show in Parwich and the Hartington Show. Missed out on the Antiques in Ashbourne though which is always worth going to. Izzy did better than me by getting 1st prize as the Prettiest Bitch at Hartington Show […]

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